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You Should Not Have to Pay Just to Talk to Your Attorney

Updated: Apr 12

I recently had a long conversation with a client. It was at the end of the conversation when she shared a piece of information she did not think was relevant - but in fact was very important. If I was working for a family law firm billing by the hour she would have paid more than $400 for that conversation. If my client was being billed based on the length of the call she would not have talked as long and I would never have learned valuable information about her case.

This is another problem when you hire an attorney who charges by the hour. It is difficult with a system of billable hours for you to control your expenses and achieve a positive result. I know people who are afraid to talk to their attorney because it is so expensive.

Attorneys regularly abuse the billing system with communications with their clients. I have seen bills where over 80% of the hours billed were for communications with the client. Some attorneys work at getting their clients to talk, to vent, to complain - charging the client by the hour.

Another tactic is the small bill. Attorneys who bill by the hour will usually not bill for less than .1 hours (which equals six minutes). This costs about $40 for most attorneys. This is not much money to you, but it can really add up for the attorney.

Here is an example: The attorney leaves a phone message for you taking about thirty seconds. You pay $40. They then spend thirty seconds sending you an email saying they left you a message. Another $40. Sometimes they do the opposite - send you an email, then leave a phone message saying they sent email. You send ten of these, you can bill $400. You have actually spent less than ten minutes "working". I saw one bill where over $1000 was billed for small time increments.

This is just another example why using billable hours to pay your attorney is such a horrible system. It is unfair to the client, and prevents the attorney from doing his or her best work.

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